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Heir to the Shadows
Anne Bishop
Roc Books, 496 pages

Heir to the Shadows
Anne Bishop
Anne Bishop lives in upstate New York where she enjoys gardening, storytelling, and music. She is the author of the Black Jewels Trilogy (Daughter of the Blood, Heir to the Shadows, and Queen of the Darkness), The Invisible Ring, The Pillars of the World, and Shadows and Light.

Anne Bishop Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Victoria Strauss

In Daughter of the Blood, the first book of her Black Jewels trilogy, Anne Bishop used demonic and vampiric images to create a darkly fascinating world ruled by the Blood, a race of witches and warlocks whose power is channeled through magical Jewels (the darker the Jewels, the greater the power). The Blood are the caretakers of the world's three realms: Terreille, inhabited by humans; Kaeleer, inhabited by humans, other races, and kindred (animals who possess intelligence and magic power equivalent to that of Blood humans); and Hell, inhabited by the demon-dead, Blood whose bodies have died but whose souls are too strong to fade away.

Over time, the Blood of Terreille have become corrupt, and the delicate mesh of tradition and loyalty meant to maintain stability among these powerful and often violent people has become fatally distorted. Dorothea, an ambitious Queen, has made herself sole ruler of Terreille through a ruthless policy of destroying all the Dark Jeweled witches who could challenge her power, and enslaving all the strong Blood males who refuse to serve of their own will. Into this period of decline is born a Blood female, Jaenelle. Jaenelle has the potential to become not simply a witch, but Witch: the embodiment of all the Realms' dreams of power, and the Queen of the Darkness who will lead the Blood back to the purity of the old ways. If, that is, she can survive the plots of Blood who fear her power, and the horrors of Briarwood, a "school" where vicious Blood males take pleasure in breaking a young witch's magical ability through sexual abuse.

Heir to the Shadows picks up the tale after Jaenelle has been raped in yet another attempt by her enemies to destroy her enormous power. Saetan, her adopted father and demon-dead High Lord of Hell, has rescued her and given her sanctuary. Although Jaenelle's body survived the attack, her mind has been deeply wounded, and she has nearly lost her will to live. The story follows the slow process of her physical and spiritual recovery, and her gradual acceptance of her role as Witch. It also follows Lucivar, Saetan's son, who has been cruelly enslaved in Terreille; and Lucivar's half-brother Daemon, Jaenelle's staunchest defender, who was terribly injured during her rescue and has been tipped over the edge into madness by the mistaken belief that it was he who raped her. Meanwhile, Dorothea expands her plotting, Jaenelle's enemies continue their attempts to destroy her, and the world itself responds to the gathering power of Witch by giving up secrets that have lain hidden for thousands of years.

Heir to the Shadows isn't as dark as its predecessor. The torture and sexual sadism that were such a large (and sometimes gratuitous) part of Daughter of the Blood are mostly absent here; and, despite the sufferings of Jaenelle and others, the majority of the plot revolves around the love and support offered by Jaenelle's adopted family and her growing cadre of loyal followers. All the other elements that made the first book such a gripping read are present: vivid and sympathetic characters, a fascinating and fully-realized magical system (Bishop uses spiderweb imagery to great effect), lavish and sensuous descriptions, and interesting world building that turns traditional gender roles and concepts of dominance and submission on their heads. In Bishop's world, women rule and men serve (led around quite literally by their private parts), and the greatest desire of the strongest Blood males is to surrender themselves in willing service to their Queens. This desire is portrayed very consistently and convincingly from the many male viewpoints that make up the book, as is its perversion through the painful sexual slavery Dorothea and her female minions impose on their men.

As with Daughter of the Blood, there's a bit too much in Heir to the Shadows. The middle portion of the book especially is slowed by overlong scenes and tangential detail, and the frequent point-of-view shifts make it a stretch at times to keep track of who's who and what nefarious schemes are being plotted. And, I can't help but find the enormous age of some of the characters an unconvincing feature: Lucivar and Daemon have both lived for close to two millennia and Saetan for more than fifty, and yet for the most part they behave like individuals with only a few decades of experience behind them (and do they really have to snarl so much?). However, the strengths of Heir to the Shadows far outweigh any weaknesses, and its occasional lapses are more than made up for by its many compelling and beautifully-realized elements. It's a terrific read, and I highly recommend both it and Daughter of the Blood.

Copyright © 1999 by Victoria Strauss

Victoria Strauss is a novelist, and a lifelong reader of fantasy and science fiction. Her most recent fantasy novel, The Arm of the Stone, is currently available from Avon Eos. For an excerpt, visit her website.

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